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Hearts of L.A. / How the Quake Rocked Our Spirits and Changed Our Lives : COPING WITH CHAOS : 'You don't have anything. And you feel very afraid.'

January 30, 1994|Guillermina Sanchez | Sanchez, 31, a child-care provider, lives in the Adams district with her husband, Alberto, a garment worker, and their daughters, Luisana, 7 , and Gabriela, 5. Their apartment was on the second floor of an eight-unit building, which was condemned shortly after the quake. and

I was awakened by the quake, and I wanted go outside with my two daughters. I was trying to get up because the girls were yelling to me that something was wet and to come and get them because they were very afraid.

All the neighbors were screaming that gas was escaping. Those on the first floor had to get out by breaking windows because the doors wouldn't open.

The girls were screaming and crying, and I didn't know where water was falling from. Gaby would scream that she was wet, that she was cold. When we went outside to the street, she cried because it was cold. There was a lot of fog and all we had to keep us warm was one blanket.

The building looked fine. But when the sun rose, everyone was frightened when they saw the building. The building was cracked beneath the cement.

It was about 9 or 10 o'clock when the supervisor came, and he told us that we couldn't enter the building because security was going to come guard the building. He told us to get out only what we could carry, a sweater or a blanket.

I went to my mother's in South Gate because I didn't have anywhere to go. I don't know what would have happened if I didn't have my mother. Because the people who had nowhere to go waited all day, until noon or 1:00, until they were given a place to stay. They had to go to the main office, where they could find out where to get a vacant apartment.

The manager called me at my mother's house to tell me to come get my things on Thursday or Friday because they were going to tear down the apartments.

Two days after the earthquake, I didn't feel well, but I didn't feel too bad. By Friday, I started feeling sick. Saturday, I felt very nervous because I didn't have a house to stay in and because I only had one day to move my things. That day I felt sick as if I was drowning. I began to cry.

I felt so bad that I went away while my daughters stayed with my mother. My husband told me that I had to get better and calm down, because we had our daughters to look after. He said that he understood why I was afraid and nervous, but that I needed to calm down.

All of my neighbors were left without homes and were staying outside. All of the chimneys in the area fell. A building that's about a block away was destroyed. That morning the police came and told the tenants that they had to leave because the building wasn't safe.

So the people began moving their things out. All day there were parents and their children outside cooking. All the children, including my own, were hungry by 10 or 11 in the morning. All this was difficult for me.

You don't have anything. You feel like a victim in a helpless situation. And you feel very afraid. That same day I couldn't enter my house because I felt as if someone was watching me waiting to attack.

I did not go to FEMA for help because I was only left without a home, while people were in worse situations who needed more things. I was able to go to my mother's house and have hot food, a roof over my head, and my husband still had his job to go to.

Gaby, my youngest, still thinks a lot about it. She says that her heart hurts her but I don't know what's wrong with her.

You can't give them a good explanation. If I tell them that it was caused by earth movements, she asks why it happens in some areas and not in others, why it happens at midnight or at four in the morning when everyone is asleep.

I tell them that it's God's will and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

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